Tuesday, September 5, 2017

What's in a Name: Curry, by Naben Ruthnum

I love to read and taste food stories because of the hidden promise of more than a combination of various ingredients. If you know how to read correctly a recipe, you can create incredible stories. Think only about the stories of how different ingredients were introduced into various geographical spaces and the full history of their appropriation by different cultures. 
In his collection of essays about 'Eating, Reading and Race', Naben Ruthnum analysed the case of 'curry' which he proclaims: '(...) isn't real. Its range of differentiations, edible and otherwise, rob it of a stable existence. Curry is a leaf, a process, a certain kind of gravy with uncertain ingredients surrounding a starring meat or vegetable. It's an elevating crust baked around previously bland food stuff, but it's also an Indian fairy tale composed by cooks, Indians, emigres, colonists, eaters, readers and writers'. I personally haven't cooked curry - yet - and I have a very limited taste experience therefore I can hardly go to far when it comes to the eating part of the stories. 
However, I can trace various interpretations and contextualizations acquired through the literary representations. Ruthnum outlines the requested literary conundrum assigned to the novels by and about that part of the world. 'Food and literature are the most definint elements of the Indian diaspora on the small world I've built around myself as a brown adult in the West. Curry's the vehicle I use to look at how we eat, read and think of ourselves as a miniature mass-culture within the greater West. Curry's just as fake and as real as a great novel, as a sense of identity'. 
The book is a collection of essays, with interesting references of authors exploring the limits of food and identity and the pressure to find yourself outside those limitations of the 'India's of the mind'. 'South Asian Writers is an identity, not just a pair of adjectives and a noun, and it's an identity that establishes a tacit promise to an audience that is seeking it, whether the author intended it or not'. 
It is almost impossible to think that this mindset will change any time soon, but the efforts to deconstruct this reality are small breaks into the wall of imposed creativity. Think about how much potential there is when the challenge of offering different streams of identity is really taken, word by word.

Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

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